Friday, September 5, 2008

Child Support in the News

Some news from New Jersay via 'Three Pony Rule' Invoked to Cut Former NFL Player's Monthly $18K Child Support:

The court, in Strahan v. Strahan, A-3747-06, said that the trial judge failed to make the specific findings of fact necessary to sustain his decision to add $200,000 a year to the $35,984 annual award that the couple's twins girls are due under statutory guidelines.

While acknowledging there are unique problems with determining the reasonable needs of children of high-earning families, the court said trial judges should nevertheless avoid overindulgence -- citing the doctrine of In re Patterson, 920 P.2d 450 (Kan. App. 1996), that 'no child, no matter how wealthy the parents, needs to be provided [with] more than three ponies.'"
I admit never hearing of this "Three Pony Rule" until now. I cannot think of a single case where any of my clients even had one pony.

I am not sure what "specific findings of fact" are required under New Jersey law. Under Indiana's Child Support Guidelines, the trial judge must explain why he deviated from the child support guidelines. A party can ask the court to make specific findings and the court's failing to make the specific findings can lead to problems for the judge on appeal.

So far, so interesting for New Jersay and professional footballers. The following paragraph gives me something more to bring this back to Indiana:

The court also found error in the trial judge's saddling of Strahan with 91 percent of the child support obligation, especially since the judge did not impute any income to Strahan's former wife, Jean, even though she is college-educated and capable of working but has voluntarily chosen not to do so.

Oops. Big oops. Indiana's Guidelines require imputing income to a spouse who is voluntarily or even involuntarily unemployed. Sounds like the guy was getting gouged and luckily he had the income to appeal the case.

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